Against Sustainability

Have you noticed, as I have, a growing discourse against sustainability?  The pieces I'm thinking about are pessimistic (even dark).  They argue we have intractable structural problems that make 'sustainability' a futile pursuit.  They are based in the discipline of philosophy or refer explicitly to it.

● In the 2016 New York Times essay, "Against ‘Sustainability’," Jeremy Butman started with Descartes and ended by asking: "When we talk about sustainability, then, what is it that we hope to sustain?"  He answered, "Instead of sustainability, we should instead speak of adaptability."

● In 2017 I encountered the Dark Mountain Project, through Brian Calvert's essay "So what if we’re doomed?" in the High Country News, a story of grand personal and environmental disillusionment.  This references the Dark Mountain Manifesto, a philosophical critique of modern civilization which is quite a few years old now but new to me.  It says: "Increasingly, people are restless...  Nobody knows what is coming.  Nobody wants to look."

● Guy McPherson's website Nature Bats Last has more pieces which fall into this category.  "Toward an Economy of Earth" is notable.  McPherson famously went "back to the land" before 2011.  (Disclaimer that McPherson is apparently accused of sexual harassment.)

● And late in 2017 British sociologist Elizabeth Shove published a slightly narrower critique: “What is wrong with energy efficiency?”  She argues that incremental efficiency measures only reconfirm "essentially unsustainable concepts of service."  This is based in part on ideas of French philosopher Bruno Latour.

● Other examples in this genre?  Please comment!

Personally, I don't know what to make of these views.  I'm not dystopian by nature, yet there's something compelling here, now.  I'm weary of the 'sustainability' conferences with huge carbon footprints, the meaningless corporate platitudes, and the well-meaning student projects which embroider the fringe of the garment.  At the same time, as a modernist, it's difficult for me to see the industrial revolution as an intractable problem.

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Here's another source discussing "unsustainable concepts of service": "Bedazzled by Energy Efficiency" by Kris De Decker in Low-tech Magazine.  This article also touches on The Clothesline Paradox.